The Individual in African History: The Importance of Biography in African Historical Studies

This volume investigates the development of biographical study in African history and historiography. Consisting of 10 case studies, it is preceded by an introductory prologue, which deals with the relationship between historiography and different forms of biographical study in the context of Western history-writing but especially African (historical and anthropological) studies. The first three case studies deal with the methodological insights of biographical studies for African history. This is followed by three case studies dealing with personas living through fundamental societal transitions, and four case studies focusing on the discursive dimensions of biographical subjects (including religion, cosmology and ideology). Countries or regions discussed include South Africa, Zambia, Gold Coast, Cameroon, Tanganyika, Congo-Kinshasa and the Central African Republic in colonial times. 

Case studies are offered of e.g. Abdullah Abdurahman, the first South African politician of colour elected to public office, Cornelius Badu, born in 1847 in Elmina, former Gold Coast (Ghana), and politicians like Barthélémy Boganda (CAR) and Laurent Kabila (DRC).

Contributors are Lindie Koorts, Elena Moore, Iva Peša, Paul Glen Grant, Jacqueline de Vries, Duncan Money, Morgan Robinson, Eve Wong, Klaas van Walraven, Erik Kennes.

This book has been published as volume 17 of the African Dynamics series.

Author(s) / editor(s)

Klaas van Walraven

About the author(s) / editor(s)

ASCL senior researcher Klaas van Walraven is a historian and political scientist who is currently working on the history of colonialism and decolonisation in French Equatorial Africa. He is particularly interested in biographical perspectives on history.


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